That Time of Year
We’ve been enjoying a stretch of nice weather this week, freezing at night and sunny by day, but previously we had snow, ice and then more snow. At a certain point it was beginning to make more sense to put the cows in rather than leave them out and continue with my winter pasture fertilization experiment. When we first read Salad Bar Beef by Salatin, we paid particular attention to the chapter about winter feeding and how cows would eat less hay if they were housed in a feeding shed type setup. What we discovered in our case is that the cows didn’t eat less hay they just did better on the same amount. Livestock burn a lot of calories just trying to stay warm and dry, it’s hard in a rainy area like we have to deliver feed and keep it dry enough to stay palatable. Hence the feeding shed.
So it begins, building the bedding pack. We supply the carbon, the cows supply, well, you know what they supply. When I checked the temperature in the bedding pack yesterday it had already reached 85°F in just a week. Nice.
The cows and long yearlings were happy to come to the barn, although the calves were skeptical, they have been living the free-range life since they were born, and were a bit skittish. Now they have to depend on me for feed. We call it “the treatment”, within two days the calves were mmmming me when they saw me rounding the corner at the greenhouse. Just like momma and big siblings, they learned very fast, that humans mean food and water. Every interaction after the first day is good and reinforces that I can be in close quarters with them and it’s okay.
I’m always reluctant to put the cows in each winter, but once we do, I always wonder why I waited so long. Chores are nice and under cover and the barn full of munching cows is a calming place to hang out. I’m draining hoses each night before it freezes, but what the hay, barn chores are pretty comfy these days.